Request for advice: The problem of writing smut

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Request for advice: The problem of writing smut

Postby SirMustapha » Fri Feb 14, 2014 12:24 am

Notice: this specific thread is related to original writing, not fanfiction.

So I've been writing some stuff in Portuguese, with the intent on promoting myself somehow. Nothing serious so far, though. But last year I completed a Portuguese version of an old short story of mine, put it up online and tried to publicise it on Facebook. I know of at least two people who read it (yeah, laugh at me). So, I decided to keep it up and write another one. This time around, though, it's an Adult Story. In other words, Parental Advisory: Explicit Material.

Thing is, it's not an erotic story, and sex is not the focus. It is, though, pivotal to the story, in two occasions in particular. Now, my target audience is definitely people who shouldn't be shocked at that kind of thing. And remember that, in Brazil, we're generally more tolerant towards sex (as long as it's heterosexual, of course! We don't wanna offend the crazy fundamentalist zealots and the extreme right-wing fascist nutjobs) than towards violence. To make story short: I don't want to fall into vulgarity and explicitness for explicitness' sake; but one of the sex scenes is so pivotal to the plot and to the characters that I think it deserves a detailed treatment.

My basic problem with the tone of the writing is not in offending the readers, but with being vulgar and cheap. The story, even though the plot is as banal as it gets, has a serious focus on character development and has a Serious Message I want to deliver, and I fear that a very explicit scene can distract the reader's attention and throw him off the story. On the other hand, I don't want the scene to seem sanitised and obviously toned down, because I fear that can be even more jarring and distracting for a reader who is seriously immersed into the story and understands what's going on. I don't know if I'm being clear, but I guess this problem is not breaking news for many writers. What I ask is, is there a way to gauge the tone of this particular kind of material, a way of reading it that can give me a serious, balanced insight?

I will understand if the wisest and fairest answer I get here is "who knows?" or "it depends", because I know how subjective art is and how tricky it is dealing with an audience. But any insight, no matter how tiny, will be seriously appreciated. Thanks beforehand. :)
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Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
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Re: Request for advice: The problem of writing smut

Postby c_nordlander » Sat Feb 15, 2014 12:14 am

I pretty much agree with everything you say here, and I see the problem. Unfortunately, this is the kind of thing where it's really hard to give concrete advice without reading the passage and the surrounding context of the story.

I don't write sex scenes if I can avoid it, so I'm really not the right person to give you advice, but I'd say: if you want to write it, write it like you would any other scene. As long as you write it seriously and without any overblown porno-prose, I think your readers (provided they're over age fifteen) won't be distracted by explicit material.

This might not be applicable to your story, but just a general point in writing about sex: I've noticed that quite a lot of people seem to think that explicit sex scenes in fiction are always meant to be arousing, as if a sex scene can never be included for any other reason than to make the audience get off. (Which is actually a slightly disturbing idea, when you consider how many works of fiction contain rape or generally unhappy or detached sexual relationships.) Explicit scenes can be used to build plot and/or character, just like any other scene.
The noose draws tighter;
This is the end;
I'm a good fighter
But a bad friend;
I've played the traitor
Over and over;
I'm a good hater
But a bad lover.

Elinor Wylie, "Peregrine"

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